Fingernails and Make-Up... What's the real story?

I’ve recently begun to feel the need to clarify something about myself… about women in general.  Let me begin by saying that though I believe all women are wonderfully unique, in many ways we are very similar.  And while it is true that clothes, make-up, hair-dos, fingernails and the like can sometimes (for some women) cross the line into vanity, I believe that most women are anything but vain.

In this regard, I feel like a fairly typical woman, and I hope that by speaking for myself I can speak for the majority of women.

I own a few kind of hair products… shampoo, conditioner, anti-frizz serum, a flat iron, a hair dryer, and hair spray.  I use cosmetics… foundation, blush, eye shadow, etc.  I use them all on a fairly regular basis.  I have several pairs of jeans (I’ll admit, jeans are my weakness), along with various shirts and slacks that I wear to work.  I love flip-flops.  They are comfortable and I like they way they make my feet look. 

Every couple of months (or longer if I’m really busy… which is often) I get a hair cut at the beauty salon.  And twice a year, I get my hair colored.  I love my stylist. She’s a really cool chick and we have fun visiting while she does my hair.  And she’s great at her job.  I always walk out of her place feeling like a million bucks.

I also get my nails done.  A few pedicures during the summer, when I’m regularly wearing my beloved flip-flops.  And I go through spells where I keep acrylic nails on my fingers.  Sometimes the hassle of going in to have them maintained every other week gets to be too much, so I quit for a while.  Then, a couple months later, I get tired of my hands looking like they’ve been through a meat grinder, and I go back to the nail salon to get them done again.

All this makes me sound pretty high maintenance, huh?  Makes me sound like a vain, superficial woman who’s self-worth is wrapped up in her appearance.  Well, guess what?  I’m not vain.  I’m not superficial.  And my self-worth is absolutely not wrapped up in what I look like.  I am, however, a woman, and just because I don’t need all the trappings of beauty to know I’m valuable, I do sometimes need to feel attractive.

Herein lies the issue for me, and I’d wager to guess, for most women.

Most of the time, I don’t feel pretty.  I feel like a fat cow with a perpetual bad hair day.  I feel dull and plain… like that unattractive woman who never has time to really worry about her appearance because she’s too busy getting the kids ready to leave the house.  That woman who’s run ragged by her job, her school work, her family situations and just can’t spare the time to make herself look nice.  The woman who doesn’t have time to do much else besides make sure her clothes are ironed and she remembered to put deodorant on before she heads to work or school.  We take care of our families; we take care of our job and school responsibilities, and we forget to take care of ourselves.

Yes, in my head I know that I never look as bad as I imagine I do, but that means nothing to my heart.  To the heart of a little girl that still beats inside me, wanting affirmation and approval from the outside world.  This is not an easy admission for me, but it’s the truth.  Inside of every woman, is the heart of a little girl who wants to be beautiful.

We’ve all seen those little girls.  They come to church all dressed up in their frilly dresses… hair all done up with a bow.  Sometimes mommy might even put a bit of lip gloss on her and paint her fingernails.  And she feels beautiful.  And when she prances around in front of you, clearly wanting your approval, you give it, right?  You tell her how beautiful she looks.  You’d never dream of ignoring her, or giving her a benign compliment like… “You look fine”.  No way.  We affirm that little girl.  We give her the huge approval she’s looking for.

Well, the heart of that little girl never goes away, and women never really outgrow that feeling.  Maybe it becomes a little less important over time, but as we grow and mature and take on responsibilities like jobs and families we lose a little bit of ourselves along the way.  And perhaps the flat irons, the make-up, and the pretty fingernails are our way of reclaiming a little of that innocence and joy.

And maybe, just maybe, we’re looking for a tiny bit of affirmation from the people around us.  Maybe, just maybe, we want to feel beautiful again.

So nowadays, I go to the nail salon every other week.  And for about an hour, someone else takes care of a small part of my appearance.  And a small part of me looks beautiful and perfect.  And I feel a little bit pretty.

Because most of the rest of the time I don’t.

And trust me when I say, it has nothing to do with vanity or being worldly, and everything to do with being human and female.


  1. Amen Amy!

    Maybe I'm just overly emotional today, sitting here in a puddle of tears nodding my head in agreement with what you've written, but I don't think I'm overly emotionally. I think you're spot on and oh, the irony...

    Last night I was trying to think of what my next blog should be about as I was falling asleep and thought I could write something about being a woman...LOL You beat me to it and very eloquently at that!

    Bravo and thank you. Who knows better the heart of a woman than woman herself.

  2. Hey Amy!

    Yep, you've captured the female experience. I've just returned from the nail salon myself, where I had a set of acrylics removed. They're fun at first but after awhile I can't wait to be rid of them.

    I think all women are beautiful. It's up to us to remember and to remind eachother. And all of the outward trappings of femininity... the nails, hair, make-up... are just meant to enhance beauty and allow us to revel in what is inately there already.

    Will you be at the Lori Foster Event this weekend.

  3. It's funny to read this because I wrote about nail care and maintenance too. It's one of the things we can observe and compliment each other about. I intend to compliment women (strangers and friends) when it's obvious they have put some time and energy into their grooming on something as impersonal as nails.

  4. Amy,

    I'm totally feeling this blog. The need for positive attention is sometimes overwhelming for me.

    Being that I'm not in my twenties anymore, and I've put on quite a bit of weight since quitting smoking and taking on a job where it is mandatory to sit on my butt all day, I'm not feeling very pretty anymore. My metabolism is slowing WAY down, so I basically just feel frumpy and tired all the time.

    The fact is, when I was younger I was slimmer and cuter. Now (sigh) -- time is marching on -- and it's marching all over me!

    So, if every now and then I can make myself feel good by getting a cut and color, or a new shade of lipstick, or a new pair of jeans that I think make my butt look better, go me! People can call me every kind of vain if they want to, fine with me. All I know is, when I look better, I feel better.

    And being wifey, mommy, writer, Suzie-homemaker, and whatever other hats I might be wearing on any given day, doesn't leave much time for primping. But I try to pretty up when possible. While I do crave affirmation from the masses like a dehydrated man craves water in the desert, truth is, most of the time I'm really doing these little things for me and my waning confidence.

    Great blog, Amy. Girl power! lol ;)

  5. Mmmm, I'm with Taryn on this one. Not crying, but nodding my head as you went through your points. I went to the Lori Foster event this weekend, and I saw a LOT of women. Short, tall, skinny, fat, bearded, you name it. But you know what? They were all beautiful because they were all smiling and doing something they loved. Their enthusiasm and joy for writing and reading and their favorite authors was amazing to see. I knew maybe 4 or 5 people when I first got there, but it seemed like I knew everybody by the time I left.
    For a woman, it seems like the romance community is such a welcoming group of people.
    You could tell that everybody had taken time with their appearance. Lots of fresh looking haircuts, and burnished tans. Fresh nailpolish on their toes (my personal vice). But the smiling faces and open hearts were what was really beautiful.
    This was a wonderful post, and I don't think you should feel bad about taking care of YOU.